Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

My thoughts on the Playboy Thing.

I haven't posted about the Playboy/Wonder Woman cover controversy yet, mostly because I'm in a very strange position as I see it.

I actually don't see a problem with it. It's the usual sort of showy borderline-parody that I'd expect from Playboy. I don't necessarily think it's any different than that Sex-in-the-City chick posing nude on an Enterprise set.

At the same time, most arguments in favor of it actually tick me off a lot more than the arguments against it.

First of all, there's the "why are you mad? Have you never read a WW comic?" folks. Which, for one thing, is a very stupid question. Of COURSE the people who are mad read Wonder Woman. They wouldn't CARE otherwise.

I'm not saying all Wonder Woman fans are bothered by this, but clearly some of them are. And even if YOU don't see the difference between the output as seen in the comic with the Playboy cover/article, someone does. It doesn't take much to disagree and still show some respect to fellow fans.

Then there's the "Well, what do you expect? She's in a BATHING SUIT!" set.

A bathing suit is not body paint. A bathing suit is a piece of public apparel that a woman can wear to go to the beach, or a pool, or some other place where such a garment is appropriate. I'm fairly certain, in contrast, that body paint alone would not prevent someone from being arrested for indecent exposure.

No one's saying anyone has to like the costume, but there's still a notable difference between a woman in a bathing suit and a naked woman wearing paint in the shape of a bathing suit.

Finally there's the "Marston was a perv!" set. Which is particularly annoying. YES, Marston had a kink. YES, he was open about it. And YES, Wonder Woman did spend a lot of time tied up.

But she was tied up FULLY CLOTHED, thank you. The majority of his kinks were NOT in public view via this comic. This comic was designed for public consumption with at least an eye toward young girls reading it. The original author's private proclivities are not relevant to whether the use of the image in WW is appropriate in Playboy.

Now that said, I don't have a problem with the actual article. In my opinion, it's a fairly standard parody that probably won't have any adverse effect on young people buying the comic because young people probably will not be exposed to Playboy anyway. (And those that are will probably be worldly enough not to let it hurt their opinion of the real character.) I don't think it's a bad thing that Wonder Woman is a product that clearly appeals to men as well as women, and that straight men find the costume erotic. It's part of marketing. It's what makes a successful product. And to be honest, straight men seem to find the most bizarre things sexy anyway. :-P

I don't think it's fair to compare this cover with the poor artist that Ragnell's linked here. I think that argument makes a troublesome assumption. Well, a few actually. The first assumption is that DC gave permission for the use of the image. This may be true and I'm willing to operate under the assumption that it is. Okay. But then it's not necessarily fair to compare a body painted Wonder Woman to homoerotic Batman because we don't know the legal issues behind it.

First and foremost, did that unfortunate artist actually have permission to use the likeness? If Playboy does and that artist doesn't, then DC is perfectly justified in permitting the one use to go on while banning the other. If this is the case, it doesn't matter if we liked the art or if we think the cover is just as problematic as the art, it's a question of copyright and trademark. Now, why might DC not have given permission to the artist? I don't know. Maybe they see a difference somehow. Maybe they thought he sucked. Maybe the artist just didn't ask.

Ultimately, I don't think any of us knows enough about that situation's particular facts to make it a workable argument for either side. There are too many unknowns.

Finally, I don't have a problem with Ms. Fallon being compared with Lynda Carter. Lynda Carter was an awesome Wonder Woman, but she's not exactly Meryl Streep. I'm sure her career has it's odd points too. I don't think Ms. Fallon's quite had such a long lasting/iconic role, but I don't find the comparison a travesty. And as for Wonder Woman herself...

Well, honestly, I've always thought of Diana as the idealized inner woman. The tall, glorious, powerful goddess-type that's supposed to be the epitome of female potential within us all. And ultimately, that includes girls who are getting paid to pose nude in Playboy.


  • At January 17, 2008 7:22 AM, Anonymous Thomwade said…

    I think someone made an interesting point on the difference between Homo-erotic Batman and Body Paint Wonder Woman... the Batman art had Batman indulging in sex with Robin. If Playboy had shown Wonder Woman and a model painted up as the current Wondergirl having a tryst...then DC might have raised complaint.

  • At January 17, 2008 10:13 AM, Blogger Ragtime said…

    I think the relevant point here is that it's PLAYBOY. That's what they do. If you want to argue that Playboy is evil (which might be a relatively easy argument to make), and that everything they do is evil for the same reason, that's one thing. But it doesn't become any worse just because its Wonder Woman.

    If this was the cover of Entertainment Weekly, or a promotional poster for the Wonder Woman movie, it would definitely be wrong, but this is the cover of a sex magazine.

    In my mind, the difference is whether the medium is intending to sell Wonder Woman or intending to sell sex. The standards are much different in the two cases.

  • At January 17, 2008 11:33 AM, Blogger Patrick C said…

    I totally agree. Well written post, and I completely agree that a homoerotic Batman drawing is very different than a model with bodypaint. And I bet DC would be okay with some male model with a Batman costume body painted on.

  • At January 17, 2008 1:42 PM, Anonymous Thomwade said…

    I have seen some real handwringing here and there that this was some sort of attempt to take Wonder Woman away from feminist. I find that a faulty premise, only because I think Wonder Woman has represented different things to different groups-outside of copyrights, noone "owned" WW. She has always been a little of everything. A role model hero for girls, some treated her as an object of desire. Playboy did not take anything from anyone and just suddenly use WW as a BABE out of nowhere. So, I understand people being offended, and I think you rightly show the failings of the those that are ridiculing people airing their grievance with the cover.

  • At January 17, 2008 6:53 PM, Blogger Scott (The Mad Thinker) Anderson said…

    I think you and I are on the same page on this one. I mean if it bothers you, it bothers you. If you think of WW as a symbol of something bigger and you don't think the cover is respectful to that symbol, well, you're going to be angry like someone who gets angry if a flag is burned. There's no talking you out of it.

    On the flip side, saying that this robs WW of her power as a symbol from her feminist fans or debases Lynda Carter or will throw Hillary's election, I think that's a stretch.

  • At January 17, 2008 8:49 PM, Blogger Shelly said…

    I haven't posted anything on this because I couldn't think of how to write up my thoughts. And now I don't have to. I'll just refer them here. Excellent post.

  • At January 17, 2008 11:02 PM, Blogger Ami Angelwings said…

    I'm also in the middle of this too. I haven't said nething b/c like you I have no problem with it rly. But the arguments raised in support of it (or to shut down criticism of it) are troublesome in the ways you've pointed out :D


  • At January 18, 2008 6:05 AM, Blogger Scott (The Mad Thinker) Anderson said…

    But the arguments raised in support of it (or to shut down criticism of it) are troublesome in the ways you've pointed out :D

    Ami, you see those as points trying to shut down criticism, but I'll bet the people made those points see themselves a trying to defend expression and they see the critics as trying to shut down expression or sexuality or something. Melissa said that Laura's question was stupid. OK, but Rucka's theory that this was a plot to get Hillary? Ragnell's "this is an insult to Lynda Carter" argument? I don't read those don't seem like really bright arguments so much as people trying to bolster their gut reaction with some sort of real world problem and if the bad criticism on one side is going to be called out, so should the bad criticism on the other.

  • At January 18, 2008 2:24 PM, Blogger Ami Angelwings said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At January 18, 2008 2:27 PM, Blogger Ami Angelwings said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At January 18, 2008 2:34 PM, Blogger Ami Angelwings said…

    You're welcome to call them out Scott, nobody's stopping you xD

    Also, I didn't say that all arguments were trying to shut down criticism. But that some arguments seemed like they might have been. That's what the OR part is for. :)

    As I said, if you think arguments on the other side are, you're welcome to blog about them xD

    I dunno why you think I need to express your thoughts for you tho :\

    If you think that the "other side" (there are sides? xD) should be criticized, then by all means do so. But I'm commenting on Kalinara's comments here. I'm not sure why you think I need to comment about points she never made.

  • At January 18, 2008 10:00 PM, Blogger Del Gorky said…

    Umm, I think Marston's kinks were pretty well publicly displayed in his Wonder Woman comics too. Wonder Woman's appearance on Playboy is pretty mild compared to all the golden age bondage action in the comic.

  • At January 18, 2008 10:12 PM, Blogger Barbara said…

    I was under the impression that a few things were going on with the homo-erotic Batman: 1) The artist used the images without permission. He made the claim of satire at one point and it failed, which I am inclined to agree with. It didn't seem like satire to me, it felt like Big Gay Porno Batman art. 2) DC objected to the homo-eroticness of the images. The potentially homo-erotic relationship between Batman/Robin and Batman/Superman has been commented on and made fun of repeatedly in comics (some of which are owned by DC), but those characters themselves have never been represented in those images. 3) He was making money of it. While DC doesn't usually blink an eye when artists do work like that and sell it, combined with the other two factors and the publicity it garnered, it wouldn't have helped the artist any.
    The Womder Woman thing I am fairly certain would have gained permission from DC first. For one, it's a mass publication that, even if not wildly present in the media every day, I'm fairly certain would garner notice. If nothing else, I'm sure that at least one of two of the people at DC read Playboy, whether or not it's for the articles.


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